Last year I pointed out a Kickstarter project designing 28mm dwarves. I received the pack of miniatures back around the first part of December, and they are some nice looking minis.*
Now along come two other Kickstarter projects that will provide those dwarven miniatures dungeons to explore—both of which close toward the end of this month.
The first that came to my attention is the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles. Now, these are a hefty set of tiles made of resin, for a rather hefty price. You’re looking at $65 for a base set of tiles (unpainted, cast in a dark grey, containing 14 straight walls, 12 floors, 6 corner walls, and 2 swinging doors) and probably a minimum $120 (double the above floors, walls, and so on) to have enough tiles to build a reasonably sized play area of several rooms and connecting corridors. A two-set pledge is required to gain any of the “stretch goals” of additional wall sections and floor pieces. For about $30 more (each set), you get professi0onally painted tiles, saving the added time of painting them (or just applying a darker wash and lighter grey highlights) yourself. A friend of mine had a set of the Dwarven Forge tiles and found them quite sturdy and easily set up and taken down.
The other set I only recently found out about. Dungeons of the Mountain King, by Fat Dragon Games, is a PDF with connecting pieces, columns, and sundry other things. There are actually four sets within this project. At $14 your backing gets you the Dungeons of the Mountain King set, containing modular walls, floors, stairs, and props. For $23, you get the Halls of the Mountain King (which includes the previous set) while at the $37 level you get the Caverns of the Mountain King (again, including the previous sets). The highest base level ($49) adds the Caverns of the Drow expansion, which also includes all previous sets.
Either one looks to be a nice addition to any gaming miniature collection. Haven’t decided which one (if either) I’ll back** though the Dwarven Forge tiles have the benefit of being less time consuming but significantly more expensive.
I have until the end of April to figure out what I’ll do.
*Once I ever get around to cleaning them up and mounting them on bases, I’ll take some pictures and post them . . . but don’t hold your breath expecting that to be anytime soon.
**Since I’m still trying to pull enough funds together to replace the current computer.
I recently finished the final book in the Squire’s Tales, a series aimed at teens retelling the Arthurian Legends. The author, Gerald Morris, wrote the books because all his previous experience with the Arthurian legends “had been in obnoxious children’s retellings in which all the knights were clean-shaven, cleft-chinned paragons of oppressive nobility and virtue” and the ladies were “simpering wraiths of soppy sentimentality.” He then goes on to mention it makes the reader want to “root for the dragon.”*
I don’t recall why I picked up the second book of the series—the first I read—though most likely I picked it up just to grab something for myself when the kids gathered books from the library. But I do recall going back shortly after reading it to pick up the first book to see how the characters had arrived where they were in book 2.
Now years ago, I’d read Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte de Artur (hair-pulling writing but densely packed with information) and also the Howard Pyle books—the latter to which I think Morris was referring though it has been thirty-some-odd years since last I read those so I could be mistaken—and I’ve been a fan of Arthurian tales since a young age. I think those elementary school readings of the Pyle books fixated me on the whole knights-in-shining-armor and sword-and-sorcery genre. Toss in some Tolkien, Howard, Moorcock, and Leiber, and that covers a large chunk of my childhood reading.**
Morris has retold the tales, going back to Malory and Chrétien de Troye for his source material, and no clean-shaven characters are to be found. The main character of the series is Terence, squire to Sir Gawain, and a highly skilled huntsman and archer in his own right. While the first two books center on Terence and Sir Gawain, later books in the series feature other primary characters, a small number of which Morris has created or combined with other characters appearing in the source material.
I read the first two books, took a break, then read the remainder off-and-on over the next few months. By the time I’d reached book 7, The Lioness and Her Knight, I’d decided I needed to finish the series and find out what happened to all the characters. And when Mordred is introduced in book 9, The Squire’s Quest, signaling the end of the Arthurian Age, I was desperately hoping that Terence and company would find a way to defeat him without Arthur and nearly all of his knights dying.
If you’re a fan of the Arthurian legends, give the Squire’s Tales a read. Even if you aren’t, the books are a quick, fun read that feature fun characters and Morris’ rather witty style. The list of books follows, all having been written/published between 1989 and 2010:
- The Squire’s Tale
- The Squire, His Knight, and His Lady
- The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf
- Parsifal’s Page
- The Ballad of Sir Dinadan
- The Princess, the Crone, and the Dung-Cart Knight
- The Lioness and Her Knight
- The Quest for the Fair Unknown
- The Squire’s Quest
- The Legend of the King
*No, I’m not going to use any “correct” form of documentation (I do believe elsewhere I’ve mentioned I’m rather lazy when it comes to that sort of thing although MLA is a rather simple style to follow) but the quote is on page 283 of The Legend of the King.
**Well, not all. I also read a lot of westerns, detective fiction, science fiction, and animal stories as well.
Well, happy first day of spring.
Here in the southern half of Oklahoma things started blooming about two weeks ago, which means I (and everyone else in the family) have been sneezing my head off and going through Kleenex boxes like they were bags of Doritos.
Of course, this being Oklahoma, the weather can’t reach an agreement with itself on what it will remain. The latter part of last week saw temperatures in the 70s, then Sunday we were plunged back into the 40s or so with hard, very cold winds blowing all day long. The last couple of days, the temperatures have been back in the high 50s and low 60s.
This coming weekend a freeze is in the forecast.
The kids are out of school all week and trying spend as much time out-of-doors as possible before they get dragged indoors for the semi-annual Cleaning of Their Rooms.
I don’t know why I bother. The rooms get cleaned, and two weeks later they’re trash pits again, never mind the fact that the kids swear they will keep the floors clean of all toys and other debris, etc.
If I mention any of this to my mother she just laughs and shakes her head.
Since we anticipate having not-so-pleasant weather the latter half of the week (and we really need to get some cleaning done around here and not just the kids’ rooms), we’ve been out for walks in the neighborhood, to the school with the kids’ bikes so they can ride around the parking lot there,* and just out and about.
So all my time outside has meant smelling antifreeze everywhere I go.
The Bradford Pear tree is the most widely planted tree in newer neighborhoods in Oklahoma City and from the time it first flowers (pretty white blossoms, yes) until the blossoms fall away leaving bright green leaves, the aroma it wafts is right up there with week-old garbage. To me, it smells of antifreeze, and old antifreeze at that. Both my son and a friend of mine have said they would prefer that to the stench of rotting fish.
OK, so breathing the acrid scent of old antifreeze for a month or so isn’t so bad.
*The kids like riding their bikes on the school parking lot—more room to maneuver, and since my son passed his old bike down to his sister, she’s been wanting to ride there. The sidewalks in the neighborhood are typical sidewalks, narrow for someone riding a bike and tilted at crazy angles. The open space of an empty parking lot is much easier to navigate.
I’d emailed Nathan over at Speaking Out on Life* last week and received a reply that he was glad I’d contacted him because he’d had a hard drive crash awhile back and lost all his contact info. I booted the computer Monday morning before taking the kids to school and when I returned, sat down to check e-mail.
Not as in no mail, but no response when I clicked the mouse, keyboard, or anything.
Great. Check batteries. They’re fine. Perform a hard shut down, wait a few minutes, boot the computer again.
And get the Blue Screen of Death.
What is this, a copy of Win95 that somehow was slipped onto my computer when I wasn’t looking?
Reboot and get the same thing.
Stare at the computer and grumble that I have better things to do than spend time getting the computer back up and running, like, oh, writing and voice-over stuff.
So I reboot again and see if the computer will pull itself into Safe Mode. Then I try System Restore (the computer was working fine Sunday).
And get the same BSD.
This is just wonderful.
So I reboot into Safe Mode and spend the next couple of days transferring everything off the hard drive that I’ve downloaded, written, or voiced over the past couple of months. And yes, it did take a couple of days simply because A) I’d dumped more on the hard drive during that time than I’d thought, B) transferring anything off the drive in Safe Mode is an agonizingly slow process, and C) I decided since it looked like the techno-deities had decided to shoot my week away I might as well hop back on the console and play Dragon’s Dogma again.**
Awhile back I’d pointed out some of the problems with the lack of control over pawns in the game. As soulless beings in the world of Gransys (the setting for Dragon’s Dogma) they operate on the level of dogs or other pet-like animals, following the Arisen (your character), running ahead if that’s part of their “character” or if ordered to with the Go! command, which of course, I think of as Fetch! Or coming back to my side with the Come! command. “Come here, Fido! Good boy.”
Unfortunately, they can’t receive direct commands, such as, “Cast the maelstrom spell on that group of bandits approaching us,” or “Pound the chimera with bolide” (a meteor-storm spell), but instead confront the more heavily armed and armored types in one-on-one combat. Even if the pawns in question are spellcasters and should be hanging back as far as possible from guys waving around large instruments of death or giant, multi-headed monsters that want to eat them.
This week I discovered that another irritating tendency of theirs—jumping over fallen logs, treasure chests, rocks, and so on—can lead to their direct demise, especially when said chest sits at the edge of a steep drop.
My party was wandering through SoulflayerCanyon when I approached a chest sitting at the tip of a narrow ledge. I opened the chest and two of the pawns jump over the chest going, “Look at me! Look at me!” When I turn back around, I have only three pawns following me. The other had disappeared entirely. No hovering at death’s door and could I make it down fast enough to revive the stupid jumper. Just gone.
Fortunately, my son came to the rescue again and asked when I’d last saved (only a fighter or two previously), so I was able to exit without saving, reload, and recover the pawn. I did so, re-fought the encounters, saved again (once determining that a pawn hadn’t taken another nose-dive off a nearby cliff), and approached the chest again, which I opened then backed away as quickly as possible. This time the pawns didn’t jump around.
The next ledge up, though, both my main pawn and a secondary pawn did their leaping act and wound up far below, crying out, “I can’t take this much longer” as their life bars hovered at death’s door.
Oh, my computer is now recovered. Seems there was a conflict between an updated AV program and the firewall. Once I uninstalled both, reinstalled one and replaced the other, things are running as normal. Still slow, but running.
The dino-computer still lumbers on.
*Nathan split his original blog, Speaking Out (in Class), apart a few weeks back. He now runs Speaking Out on Life (linked above) and Speaking Out on Sex, the latter containing all the mature-themed posts that had been lumped together with everything else in the original blog.
**Any excuse to play video games is a good one, in my opinion.
Happy Year of House Slitherin!
Wait, that’s not right.
Happy New Year (of the Snake)!
Yesterday, we celebrated my daughter’s birthday at the local roller rink, and, yes, I went skating, too (my daughter hasn’t gained full confidence in her ability to get about on wheels and requires daddy’s hand), so I’m exhausted today.*
We met my wife’s side of the family for dinner last night to celebrate her mom’s birthday as well as her nephew’s birthday (both of which are today). The plan had been to go to the temple on the north side of town for the Chinese New Year celebrations since it actually fell on a weekend this year, but the cold, drizzly weather and the fact that I’d been about to fall asleep at the wheel told us the better bet was to go home.
This was disappointing because I know my kids would love it. I haven’t been to a Chinese New Year’s celebration since my wife and I got married (and I think the last had been a year or two earlier when we’d gone), but I found the atmosphere vibrant with positive energy (and I typically hate crowds) more so than I have other New Year’s celebrations. Granted, I’ve only been to the ones here in Oklahoma City (which are fun, don’t get me wrong) but the venues are so spread out and the typical thing is brave the cold from one to the next, popping inside long enough to warm up, see what’s going on, then back outside again (and we have even had a few years when the weather has been in the 60s during the day, so pleasant night temperatures).
But everything at the temple was in one location. The temple is large—not nearly so much as the one being built just northwest of Houston though—but enough that people can pack in tightly and it not feel totally claustrophobic. I’ve never figured out why I’ve always found the Chinese New Year’s celebration more optimistic than the traditional western New Year.**
Ah, well, there will be other Chinese New Year’s Days to celebrate and some of those will fall on a weekend, too.
*Of course, I’d planned to skate anyway. I’d taken the kids skating the first time over the Christmas break. They loved it. So much so that my daughter decided then to have her birthday party there. That had been the first time I’d gone roller skating since Carter was in office. I’ve been ice skating a bit more recently—as little as twenty years ago—and only recently discovered the ice rink on this side of town is actually open for public skating during the day. Guess I know what I’ll be doing once a week while the kids are in school.
**Hmmm, dragon dance and fireworks going off as opposed to a mirrored ball rising (or falling as it does everywhere else) and fireworks. The former’s definitely more exciting, but even though the incense burned in the temple does give me a headache, there’s some intangible that the lunar new year brings. Maybe it’s the simple fact that it comes later than the solar new year and isn’t lumped in with the commercial frenzy that is Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s so there’s time to reflect on the old before diving into the new.
I’ll admit, I haven’t done much writing the last few weeks. Oh, notes here and there for various projects, but no nose-to-the-grindstone work. I haven’t even been doing much voiceover, either. Sure, a few audition pieces, a few dry reads throughout the day just for practice, a bit of work on demo material.
No, instead, I’ve been firing up the video games every afternoon for an hour or so once I’ve gotten all the daily house chores done and am in that wait-to-get-the-kids stretch of the day.
And lately, I’ve been playing Dragon’s Dogma. Itching to play, really. I didn’t get much video game time in over the holidays, so I’m burning it out of my system now and having a good time doing so.*
Yes, Dogma has its problems, screen glitches, code glitches, the endless repetition of running back through areas you’ve already cleared only to have to do it all over again, and so on.** But I’m having fun with it.
I’d picked up the walk through for the game and while it has a decent overview of the game and the different quests and equipment available, it really doesn’t give any in-depth pointers on how to clear certain areas. To remedy this, I did some poking around in various forums and discovered how hateful the computer RPG*** community can be. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim fanboys spam the Dragon’s Dogma message boards saying how bad DD is while the Dogmaniacs spew invectives against the Scrimmers.
As gamers, can’t we just get along and agree that not every game appeals to everyone? Without being spiteful about it? Is that so difficult?
I guess, for some, that’s an impossibility.
Dragon’s Dogma does have one of the better character design systems I’ve seen in a video game, allowing child-sized Halfling type builds up to towering, burly near-giant builds, and everything in between. Want a young character? Old character? Middle-aged? Tall, short, skinny, obese? The system allows it.
The game has you build not only your main character but also his (or her) main sidekick, or pawn, as they’re called in the game. You have the ability to enlist the aid of two more pawns as well to round out your adventuring party, and these secondary pawns can be retrieved from other players online, if you happen to have that capability (I don’t), or just pulled from in-game.
Pawns, though, cannot be given orders. Well, simple commands such as “Go!” “Help!” or “Come!” (the latter used to pull the pawns to your side) assigned to the directional buttons on the controller are available, but that’s it. Nothing more complex. And the silly secondary pawns tend to stumble around in front of the main character (me), or stop right in front of me and cast spells which block my line of sight, and—eh, you get the idea.**** Kind of remind me of certain children I know.
At least when those children stop in front of me in real life, I don’t trip over the edge of a thousand foot cliff.
*I’ve played perhaps half a dozen or so games over the past twenty years which have grabbed my attention to where I feel compelled to play them: DOOM, Rise of the Triads, Sid Meiers Pirates, Jade Empire, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II being the main titles that come to mind.
**Most of which seem to crop up with nearly every video game I’ve ever played anyway.
***Computer RPG, what a joke. A “role-playing” game on the computer? When you’re given maybe one or two alternatives because that’s how the code was written? That’s not role-playing. For real role-play, get a group of friends together, sit around a table, and create your own characters and their stories.
****The other day, my character was being chomped on by an ogre while the pawns poked around the tunnels of a mine complex picking up nuts, rocks, skulls, and so on. “Hey, what’s this?” “Oh, this looks useful.” “Hey, guys! My arm is in the ogre’s mouth! Do you think you could help me out here?”